11 Local Influencers Talk New York City

These are the taste makers and influencers behind some of NYC's most notable businesses.

Meet the city’s top influencers—the front-runners of their industries—whose expertise creates unique and memorable experiences for travelers and locals alike. Those profiled here are the reason our city is a top visitor destination.

Face of Luxury Transportation: EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services

Chairman and CEO David Seelinger is the driving force behind EmpireCLS—the largest privately held chauffeured transportation company in the world. Under his direction, the company has grown from a small NJ-based limousine outfit to an impressively large-scale operation that extends throughout the United States and abroad, with fleets of luxury vehicles in over 700 cities worldwide and a variety of specialty services. While EmpireCLS has grown in size over the past 35 years, David’s dedication to unparalleled, professional service remains at the core of the company’s culture. 800.451.5466

Faces of Fine Footwear: Citishoes

Ben Khoudari left his position as an electronics design engineer in 1993 and opened his own business—Citishoes. With a love for fashion and a knack for finding the best style to match each customer, Khoudari and his staff of professionals, including Manager Voltaire Blain, are dedicated to ensuring Citishoes is New York City’s premier shoe store. With its sterling reputation and extensive collection of the finest, classic brands such as Alden Shell Cordovan shoes—including special colors and custom models—Church’s Edward Green, Gaziano & Girling, Paraboot and Mephisto, you’re sure to find your next perfect pair here. 445 Park Ave., between E. 56th and E. 57th Sts., 212.751.3200

Face of Chic Hairstyles: Salon Ziba

Salon Ziba owner Alonso Salguero has always believed in building a renowned, international platform for the salon’s discerning clientele. Now in its 27th year in business, Salon Ziba has assembled a talented staff from South America, Europe and the Far East—each excelling in the art of providing patrons with the perfect hairstyle. With three great locations, VIP rooms and the use of luxury brand products, Salon Ziba has been defining beauty with an ever-growing list of clients who include models, journalists and performers. Salon Ziba locations are open seven days a week, with in-hotel and bridal services also available. 50 W. 57th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves.; 200 W. 57th St., at Seventh Ave.; 485 Sixth Ave., at W. 12th St., 212.767.0577

Faces of Fabulous Blooms: Starbright Floral Design

Starbright Floral Design has a two-decade history in New York City, making its mark by offering the freshest and highest quality blooms. With this father/son team—Nic and Stephen Faitos—that drives innovation in both design and style, Starbright is expected to set the gold standard of modern floral design in NYC for many years to come. This organization is built on a culture of enthusiasm and a passion for flowers that spills over to its customers. Over 200 of the city’s best-known concierges recommend Starbright, which has earned the moniker, “The Official Florist of the City That Never Sleeps.” 140 W. 26th St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., 212.229.1610,

Face of Grand Central Partnership: Grand Central Partnership

As President/CEO of the Grand Central Partnership, Fred Cerullo continues his commitment to public service in New York City. Grand Central Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensure the neighborhood surrounding Grand Central Terminal is safe, clean and thriving. This dynamic area of Manhattan has some of the best dining, tourism, shopping and nightlife hot spots in the city and the Grand Central Partnership helps maintain its ever-evolving accomplishments.  122 E. 42nd St. #601, at Lexington Ave., 212.883.2420

Faces of Luxury Skincare: Osswald Parfumerie + Luxury Skincare Boutique

Tanja Dreiding Wallace—whose grandfather Boris Dreiding established the world-famous Parfumerie Osswald in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1921—opened Osswald New York in 2012. Building on Parfumerie Osswald’s reputation for offering groundbreaking and hard-to-find brands, Osswald New York is home to over 30 luxury fragrance, skincare and cosmetic lines—many of which can only be found there. As Wallace likes to say, the Osswald New York team—including Josie Plumey and Daniel Ramirez—offers a “little bit of Swiss hospitality in the Big Apple.” 311 W. Broadway, between Canal & Grand Sts., 212.615.3111

Face of Effective Nonsurgical Pain Relief: Dr. Jeff Rosenberg

Dr. Jeff Rosenberg has over 20 years of experience practicing chiropractic wellness and is certified in three chiropractic techniques—Cox, Active Release and Graston—that are proven most effective for lasting pain relief. This dedication to nonsurgical pain treatment offers patients a safe and fast road to recovery from disc injuries, carpal tunnel, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, shoulder pain and more. Dr. Rosenberg’s expert comprehensive care will alleviate both the patient’s concerns and discomfort, allowing them to enjoy the full benefits of his cutting-edge, holistic treatments. 635 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, at E. 59th St., 212.858.0015

Faces of Chocolate: Voilà Chocolat

Entrepreneur Peter Moustakerski’s innovative concept of offering unique chocolate-making experiences and artisanal chocolate treats in one shop came to life with Voilà Chocolat. At this Upper West Side store, visitors of all ages apply traditional chocolatiering techniques using top-quality chocolate by participating in à-la-carte activities—like crafting their own gourmet chocolate bars. Educational classes, team-building exercises and chocolate pairings all take place in Voilà Chocolat’s chocolate lounge. Award-winning chocolate creations by Master Chocolatier Christophe Toury are available, as are customizable gifts with personalized graphics or text printed right on the chocolate. 221 W. 79th St., between Amsterdam Ave. and Broadway, 212.920.8799

Face of Greek Cuisine: Kellari Taverna

Stavros Aktipis, owner of Kellari restaurants in NYC and Washington, D.C., has been in the Greek food business for over 30 years. His journey to create an authentic, modern Greek restaurant began in Athens, Greece, and brought him to the United States. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016, Kellari Taverna, his flagship restaurant, continues to specialize in Mediterranean cuisine with an exceptional array of imported seafood—as part of a top-notch sustainable fish program—and prides itself in using only the freshest ingredients. Don’t take our word for it; go to Kellari Taverna and get a taste of true Greek hospitality. 19 W. 44th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., 212.221.0144

Face of Outdoor Antiques and Flea Markets: Annex Markets

For 40 years, Alan Boss has been known to both New Yorkers and frequent city visitors as the Big Apple’s "Flea and Antiques Market Impresario." Boss’ Annex Markets, located in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea, are packed every weekend of the year with vendors of eclectic collectibles and customers from around the city and the world. For discerning shoppers (like Andy Warhol, who was a regular at Chelsea Flea), these antiques and flea markets offer both contemporary and historic treasures that will be hard to find anywhere else. Chelsea: W. 25th St., between Broadway and Sixth Ave., 212.243.5343; Hell’s Kitchen: W. 39th St., at Ninth Ave., 212.220.0239

Faces of LGBT Sports Bars: Boxers NYC

Avid sports fans Rob Hynds and Bob Fluet are the proud owners of Boxers Bars—also known as “America’s Gay Sports Bars.” Now in their sixth year of operation with two locations in the heart of New York City (Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen) and one in Philadelphia, they have become leaders in the gay sports bar industry. Boxers Bars bring the LGBT community, gay sports leagues, other New Yorkers and visitors together to enjoy outdoor terraces, brick-oven pizza and popular two-for-one happy hour deals served by athletic bartenders who don nothing else but signature boxer shorts. Stop by and be debriefed on what Boxers NYC is all about. Chelsea: 37 W. 20th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., 212.255.5082; Hell’s Kitchen: 742 Ninth Ave., at W. 50th St., 212.951.1518

Katie Labovitz
About the author